One way to tell you’re on the way of becoming an ultrarunner

Please don’t read any further if you are podophobic. There are some graphic details below!

Good you are still here.

It’s the second time it’s happening to me and I guess this time I jumped immediately to the last stage of grieving (acceptance). The first time I definitely hit the first stage (disbelief). My tip: be prepared and accept the fact it will happen to you too.

So what’s this bad thing that will happen, and why should you grieve?

Toenails. And the loss of them.

Why we loose toenails and/or why they turn blue/black is explained beautifully in this post by Runner’s World.

And, as I don’t believe in TMI, here’s mine right now…

Black toenail, trying to hold on to it…

Why I run…

Why I run

Of course I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t love running. I love the outdoors, the training, the sense of adventure when racing ultra’s. And after running for a lot of years, you could also say I’m an addict. I need the adrenaline, endorphins and everything else. But there are two reasons that are more fundamental to who I am as a person and why running helps.

Solving puzzles

When I start running, the first 30 minutes are juist about the running itself. My body needs to get into it, get into the flow. So in this first 30 minutes I’m watching my posture, looking at my cadence, making sure I’m breathing correctly. In these 30 minutes my body relaxes more and more and things start to go by themselves, no more need to concentrate on things. 

After those 30 minutes my mind wonders and I’m in puzzle solving mode. They are the day to day or work related things I want to solve. It can be an argument with the kids or Irma, it can be a problem at work, it can be an idea for a presentation, anything at all. My mind goes all sorts of ways, but in the end the puzzle is solved. I know what went wrong in the argument, I solved the problem at work, I have a good idea for the presentation, etc. and so on. My mind relaxes.

That almost zen mode of clear thinking doesn’t happen with me by just sitting in a chair, thinking about things. I need to be moving my body, preferably with an easy run for longer periods of time. I mentally get frustrated or better get mentally stuck when I don’t run.

I actually think I dream less when I run more. I process things during running so no need to process things while sleeping.


The second reason why I run is partly related to the first, but is a reason on its own as well. I have ADHD tendencies with an emphasis on the H. Although not officially diagnosed, Irma is a psychologists and we did a couple of tests. Let’s say I’m on the spectrum. 

One of my coping mechanisms is making sure my body had enough movement and therefore is tired. When my body is tired, I can relax more. I can sit still longer, my mind doesn’t race and I can be relaxed. I can actually sit really still instead of fidgeting with stuff (my hair, a pen, or whatever I can get a hold of).

Not running

…is not really an option, or better said, has some challenges for me. I have notices this especially in the last couple of weeks as I’ve been injured and now recovering. In this period I’ve biked, but that doesn’t give me the same satisfaction. And it has been a challenge even more now with the coronavirus and sitting indoors as much as possible. My coach (Danielle Snyder) really helped me get through this by the way.

Why do you run?

Recovery debt…

One of the challenges I have is what I call recovery debt. I’ll explain.

A normal training-week looks like this. I run 5 days a week. Friday’s are my long run days as I don’t work and the kids go to school (8:30-15:00) so after dropping them off, I can run. The other four days are Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Sunday during the day and the others in the evening usually after 20:00 with Monday after 21:00.

The build up

Let’s say I start running at 20:00 for a 1,5 hour run. I’m back at 21:30. I drink, eat a bit, and relax. Feet up, watching some Netflix or reading a book. After 1,5 hours (probably a bit earlier) my heart rate is between 60-70 bpm ( I have a ~51 average rest heart rate) and hopefully my adrenaline and endorphins and what have you, are loosing their influence on my body. I shower and am in bed by 23:30. I sleep for about 7 hours because I have to get up at 6:30 again (family and work).

Those 7 hours seem enough, but because my heart rate remains a bit elevated during part of my sleep, I don’t get 100% quality of sleep. I monitor my heart rate also during sleep and my resting heart rate at wake up might be 56 bpm instead of 51 bpm. During the day it goes down further to my average, so my body seems fully recovered before I run again.

I do this 3 days in a row and that means I built up a bit of recovery/sleep debt during those three days. I see this in my waking up average rest heart rate, but more importantly I feel slightly more and more tired every day. I can fully function, it’s not that bad, but I do feel it.

Of course I need to recover and I do. Thursday is a rest day. No running! I’m a bit tired during the day, but I try to get to bed earlier (no later than 22:00) and I can sleep until 6:30-7:00. That gives me ~9 hours of high quality sleep and I feel much better.

I do have to make sure the other days I rest as well and have good nights sleep, so no partying every day during the weekend. (As if I would by the way 😛 ).


Of course there are alternatives to this schedule, I can hear the following questions…

Q: Why don’t you run early in the morning before work? 

A: Although I’m a morning person, getting up at 4:00 to do a 2 hour run before work is a bit too much at this time. Furthermore I don’t want to wake up my wife as well, because she will have a broken night then.

Q: Why not run immediately after work?

A: Family time (my kids are 7 and 9) and I’m the cook at home. I sometimes can cook early on Tuesday, my wife and kids have dinner without me and I’m back to tuck in the kids. We can to this 1 day a week, sometimes.

Q: Why not reschedule your days so you don’t have three night runs in a row?

A: That’s because my wife has a life as well :). Furthermore, Saturday is the day my kids have games (field hockey) and I help out, so no running on Saturday. 

Remember, I’m the guy with the weird hobby not my family and in this way I try to minimise the impact they have of all my running.

My question(s) to you

How do you deal with scheduling, recovery, sleep etc. when having a full family life and work? What’s your challenge in this and how do you cope? Please tell me!

Here we go…

This is me:

  • Father (Fien & Bram)
  • Husband (Irma)
  • Freelancer (Clear&Done)
  • Runner

Nothing special, except for the fact that running is a bit different for me than for most people. I usually say:

I’m a runner, but a bit on the extreme side of running. I like to run distances over a marathon and preferably in the mountains… ultra trails.

People look at me like I’m crazy, and I probably am…

A Dutch guy running in the mountains is weird anyway. It’s the Netherlands. It is flat, really flat.

I’m a normal guy, trying to combine a full family life (priority 1) with a 32-40 hour workweek (priority 3) with a 5-6 day a week training and running schedule (priority 2). I’m trying to live as an athlete (living, working, training, eating vegan/vegetarian, repeat) without the full support a professional athlete has although I do have a wonderful coach Danielle Snyder.

In this (hopefully weekly) blog I’ll write about my challenges and my highlights, my questions and my answers to the complexity of this combination of priorities. I know there are more people like me, facing the same challenges. With this blog I hope we can combine our collective knowledge and experiences to help each other out. And I’m hoping for your input.

Me during the 80k Trail des Templiers 2018